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Life Lessons Wrapped in Fantasy



Dinosaur Barney, Pooh and his pals, family-loving Little Bear, the Land Before Time gang and a spunky Ruby Princesss offer real life lessons wrapped up in cozy, feel-good, fantasy packages; pint-sized couch potatoes don't stand a chance with Hap Palmer's get-up-and-play tunes.



***those "Baby Songs Silly Songs." Backyard Video/Anchor Bay Entertainment. 30 minutes. Ages 2 to 6. $13., www. childrens. "I'm a Pretzel," "Backwards Land," "Stuff It in the Closet"--here's more captivating musical fun for little viewers from veteran singer-songwriter and preschool music educator Hap Palmer. Each terrific, sing-along tune is wrapped up in zippy animated and terrific live-action segments featuring real kids at play.

*** "Barney, Let's Go to the Zoo." Lyrick Studios/Barney Home Video. 50 minutes. Ages 2 to 8. $15 (available in English and Spanish). Good old Barney. He's been around a while, but this well-made, surprisingly uncloying video proves that while the big, squooshy purple guy doesn't have much in the way of teeth, he's still got his chops. With Baby Bop and BJ, he takes viewers on an eventful visit to the zoo, with real animals, real kids and lots of songs and giggles, natch, along the way.

*** "The Land Before Time: The Big Freeze." Universal Studios Home Video. 75 minutes. Ages 3 to 9. VHS: $20; DVD (available Dec. 4): $25. This nicely animated series about little kid dinosaurs hasn't lost its gentle appeal. Here, Littlefoot, Cera, Spike, Ducky and Petrie learn something about family, friendship, teamwork and being yourself when unexpected winter brings snowball fun and peril to the Great Valley.



**those "The Book of Pooh: Stories From the Heart." Playhouse Disney/Walt Disney Home Video. 77 minutes. Ages 2 to 8. $16. Disney's long-beloved versions of A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh characters have a new image--a 3-D, puppetry and computer-generated image--but their charm and spirit are intact in this appealing, colorful release, as Pooh searches for adventure, Tigger wants to play when it's time to sleep and Piglet copies Tigger's bounce for a day.

**those "The Little Bear Movie." Paramount Home Entertainment. 75 minutes. $20. Ages 3 to 6. In this video, based on the cozy Little Bear books by Maurice Sendak and the Nickelodeon preschooler series, Little Bear's world grows a bit bigger. He discovers that not everyone shares his safe, snug way of life when he meets a lost "wild" cub while camping with Father Bear.

**those "The Ruby Princess Runs Away." Blackboard Entertainment. Ages 5 to 10. VHS: $15; DVD: $20. (800) 968-2261, www.blackboard A princess who prefers adventure to royal duties finds an impostor about to usurp her place, with the help of a pointy-eared steward and a friendly dragon. Based on a Scholastic book by Jahnna N. Malcolm, part of a series, this entertaining musical fairy-tale fantasy is well-written and sumptuously produced.



Marvelous music from sterling children's artists, award-winning blues artist Keb' Mo and folk legend Woody Guthrie; plus eloquent storytelling performed by spell-binding Angela Lansbury, Mary Beth Hurt, Mischa Barton and Odds Bodkin, are special stocking stuffers for all ages.



**** MISCHA BARTON, "Getting Near to Baby." Listening Library/Random House Audio. Three cassettes: $22. Ages 9 to adult. Mom is painting angels; Aunt Patty lives to impose order; Little Sister won't talk; and Willa Jo is up on the roof. Audrey Couloumbis' novel about a young girl and her family coming to terms with loss is surprisingly humorous and achingly truthful--and so is actress Mischa Barton's nuanced performance.

**** WOODY GUTHRIE, "Daddy-O Daddy! Rare Family Songs of Woody Guthrie." Rounder. CD: $18. Cassette: $12. (800) ROUND- ER, All ages. "Howdy, Little Newlycome," Woody Guthrie's tender poem written in 1947, opens and closes this treasury of songs by the legendary folk artist, many never before recorded. Taj Mahal, Cissy Houston, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and others capture the whimsy and warmth in songs from "Curly Headed Baby" and "Don't You Push Me Down" to "Tippy Tap Toe."

**** JESSICA HARPER, "Inside Out!" Rounder. CD: $18; cassette: $11. Ages 4 to 10. Actress Jessica Harper has a remarkable gift for harmony and rhythm and a honey-smooth, pure alto. Her renditions of traditional songs are stunning, and her own uniquely fanciful songs ("Shout the Happiness," "A Little Brown Dog Named Joe") reflect the joy and play of childhood, and parenthood too.

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